Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Folks, This Ain't Normal - Book Review

I have been hearing good things about author/speaker Joel Salatin for years. I have heard so many things about him, in fact, that there was little chance that his book(s) could actually live up to my expectations. I was wrong. Joel Salatin’s book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the writing style. I love his message.

Salatin is a God-fearing, Bible-believing, Creation-believing farmer at Polyface Farms, in Virginia. (Though he is a Christian, I would not classify this book as Christian genre, so much as agriculture.) He grows “salad bar beef” (meaning they eat only grass, never grains) and other naturally grown animals and vegetables. This particular book by Salatin is designated to pointing out how abnormal our current American culture has become. He pulls in many quotes from our forefathers, the founders of our country, and suggests that they would “roll over in their graves” to see the condition of our food system. However, this book is not all about politics. I would say that less than one third is politically charged.

The first chapter(s) of the book caught my attention immediately by pointing out the abnormal family structure that most Americans have today. Families rarely eat together… and when they do it is typically fast food or from some other restaurant. Children are allowed to be somewhat useless all the way through adolescence. Adult men are playing video games way too many hours a week, instead of working with their hands (or working at all?). And so on. These points were all very sad to me. I like his theory that giving young people a reason to stay at home (working for their food) would be a positive solution to many of the problems that contemporary families face.

The next part of the book contained many specific explanations that I found fascinating. While reading this book I felt completely uneducated. How did I graduate from high school and go on to get a BA when I know so little about common, “normal,” everyday  life?! I admit that I was never very good at science, but I am seeing more that perhaps that is because of the way I was taught science.

For example, when Paul and I moved to MO and rented a farm house (located inside 250 lovely acres) our nearest neighbors were cats and Hereford cows. My children have learned more about science/nature by observing these animals than I did in years of public school science classes. Before marrying into a farming family, I never knew the difference between hay and straw, or a stallion and a gelding, etc. Salatin says that, historically speaking, “this ain’t normal.”

The remainder of the book gives story after story of what the American food system is today. (Not what we think it is, or what is supposed to be, but what it is.) To say “I was appalled” is a gross understatement! I have read enough blogs to hear of some of the struggles that small farmers face. But, I had little idea how bad things really are. Yes, I have seen Food Inc (and reviewed it), but I still did not know the depth of the chaos!

The last few chapters build with intensity as we read and learn about how the government does not even believe that Americans have the right to choose their own food. Seriously. I will not post quotes without permission of the author, so you will just have to go to the library and get this book!

From the abnormality of the post-industrial-revolution family to the patenting of new life forms (genetically modified grains) to our government’s beauracratic involvement in my food choices – I agree with Salatin, “Folks, This Ain’t Normal!”

This book is a must-read for all people with a brain. A must-read for all homeschool families. A must-read for anyone who cares about their health. A must-read for anyone who thinks that a USDA label on eggs makes them safe. Go. Read the book.  


Arthur Sido said...

I have this book in my Kindle wish list, one of these days I am going to get around to reading it!

Bethany in mid-MO said...

I think you will like it. He is cynical and funny... like someone else I know.
And, given how/where you all are living right now (on a small farm near Amish people) you will probably feel right at home.

NYLass said...

Yet another GREAT review of another book I MUST read!! Thank you! What a blessing... now i just have to get on the ball and BUY these! ;)